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Discussing on electricity networks’ role in a carbon-neutral economy


November 26, 2020

The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES) with the support of Enel Foundation organized a webinar on the theme “Electricity Networks in a Carbon-Neutral Economy: Challenges and Policy Implications”. The webinar was held in two different sessions, on November 18 and 25 at 12CET in both days, and focused on what impact will policies to achieve net zero carbon targets have on electricity networks in terms of role, operation, investment, competition and regulation.

Growing urgency over climate change has resulted in stringent decarbonization targets established by governments and scientific community. The European Green Deal aims to make Europe the world first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and a study held by Enel Foundation, Compass-Lexecon and Enerdata offers a fact-based analysis to assess how even more ambitious decarbonization objectives to achieve net zero emissions in 2050 can be reached in Europe both on the supply and demand side, evaluating the role of the power sector as a key enabler of deep decarbonization.

To make these goals more achievable, a combination of policies and market driven incentives have driven down costs for renewables energy sources (RES) and electric vehicles, giving electricity a key role that implicates electricity networks need to transform to support this process. In fact, grids face the growth of intermittent renewables, congestion and unscheduled power flows along with the need to maintain stability, resiliency and to provide to the additional demand driven by “electrification of the economy”. These new challenges require further investments in grid capacity and network reinforcement, which are possible if there’ll be a strategic coordination between energy governances.

Similar considerations apply also outside Europe, as shown by the research Series on VRES and grid interconnection in South America conducted by Enel Foundation in cooperation with CESI, which highlights the role of robust power grids in shaping reliable systems capable of hosting more solar and wind at reduced costs. The OIES Electricity Research Programme Webinars - based on a Special Issue of OIES’s quarterly debating journal, Oxford Energy Forum, published in September 2020 titled “Electricity Networks in a Net Zero Carbon Economy” - focused on all these aspects and on electricity networks’ role in this scenario

During Session 1, “The Emergence of the Energy System Operator - Gas and Electricity Networks in a Decarbonizing World” - that was held on November 18 - Paul Nillesen (Princewaterhouse Coopers) discussed with Malcolm Keay (OIES), Rahmat Poudineh (OIES) and Paddy Costigan (Australian Energy Market Operator - AEMO) on Energy Systems Integration and its implications for networks from a future organizational and operational perspective.

In Session 2, “Building More vs Using it Better? The European Electricity Networks Infrastructure” - that took place on November 25 - Alberto Pototschnig (Florence School of RegulationEuropean University Institute) explored with Viviana Vitto (Enel Global Infrastructure and Networks), Laurent Schmitt (European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity - ENTSO-E), Christine Brandstätt (OIES and Jacobs University Bremen) and Rahmat Poudineh (OIES) the options available to address the topic in a structural manner, in terms of the choice between expanding the network capacity (especially within bidding zones) or reconfiguring it to reflect actual structural congestion.

Each session opened with a short presentation to lay out the main arguments and help initiate debate among Panelists, and audience Q&A. To encourage open discussion, proceedings have been conducted under the Chatham House Rule of non-attribution.

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